Painting with RealBristle™ brushes
By Cher Threinen-Pendarvis
The completed oil painting
Lennox Twilight is one in a series of paintings of New South Wales, Australia that were painted using the RealBristle™ brushes in Corel® Painter™ X and a Wacom® Intuos®3 tablet. This technique begins with sketching and moves on to developing a color landscape study. In this tutorial, you will use Brush Tracking, plan a composition, use the Mixer to develop a color theme, explore several RealBristle brushes, build an underpainting, sculpt forms using more complex color and refine your painting.
Learn what’s unique about the RealBristle brushes:
1. Setting Brush Tracking
Because of their unique sensitivity to the movements of your hand and stylus, the RealBristle brushes are especially sensitive to Brush Tracking. Before you begin to draw and paint in Painter, set up the Brush Tracking so you can customize how Corel Painter interprets the input of your stylus, including parameters such as pressure and speed. Choose Edit, Preferences, Brush Tracking (Mac® OS X users, choose Corel Painter X, Preferences, Brush Tracking) and make a representative brushstroke in the window. For instance, if you plan to use both light and heavy pressure while sketching at different paces, make sure Brush Tracking is set to suit your pressure and speed.
Making a sample stroke in the Brush Tracking dialog box.
2. Planning the composition and sketching
The process of sketching will help you to become familiar with your subject. To create a sketch in Painter, I recommend using the Pencils category and a Cover Pencil or a 2B Pencil variant (and a dark color that will complement your image color palette) to draw your sketch. Here are the steps:
- Open a new file (File > New), and enter dimensions in the fields. For purposes of demonstration, this tutorial uses a 1500 x 1000 pixel file
- Next, click the Paper Selector in the Toolbox and choose a coarse, natural texture (try Coarse Cotton Canvas). This is the paper texture that you’ll use during the development of your entire image. For this project, sketching is done on a layer, and the painting is done on the Canvas
- Add a new layer to your images by clicking the New Layer button on the Layers palette. A layer entitled Layer 1 appears in the Layers palette
- For good Painter housekeeping, rename the layer by double-clicking its name, and when the Layer Attributes dialog box appears, type a new name—sketch—in the field
- With your references assembled, begin drawing your composition sketch
- When you’ve completed your sketch, choose File>Save As, and save your file in RIF, Painter’s native format
For my project, working in Painter I created a digital drawing based on photographs I'd taken and sketches I’d made on location. I sketched using my Wacom tablet and the Cover Pencil variant of Pencils.
The line sketch of the seascape drawn in Painter with the Cover Pencil.
3. Developing a color theme and trying out brushes
Painter gives you the real-life experience of dipping your brush in your artist palette, and then applying the paint to your image.
- If the Colors palette and the Mixer are not visible, choose Window, Color Palettes, Show Colors. It is helpful at this stage to have both the Colors palette and the Mixer open. Click the arrow to the left of the palette name to open the palette
- Choose a color in the Colors palette, then use the Mixer to create a color theme for the painting with the basic colors you want to use
- Apply color with the Apply Color tool (the Brush tool, second from the left) at the bottom of the Mixer Pad
- You can blend between colors using the Mix Color tool (the palette knife). Just like an artist’s palette, you can pick up color from the Mixer Pad with the Sample Color tool (Eyedropper) in the Mixer palette, and then use Painter’s brushes to apply the colored paint to your image
For more information about using the Mixer, see this month’s Painter Wow! tip, and “Working With the Universal Mixer” on page 27 in the Painter X Wow! Book.
Now it’s time to select the RealBristle brushes category in the Brush Selector Bar, and begin to explore the brushes. The RealBristle brushes are sensitive to the pressure, tilt and bearing of the stylus, and the rotation of your hand (if you have a tablet and stylus that supports these natural movements).
- First, choose the Real Oils Short variant of the RealBristle brushes in the Brush Selector Bar
- In the Layers palette, select the Canvas. Paint a horizontal, curvy stroke using your stylus
- Follow up by painting similar strokes using the Real Flat, Real Flat Oils Opaque and the Real Round variants. These brushes are ideal for applying new colored paint
- Next, experiment with other kinds of strokes, and appreciate the natural feel and performance of these brushes. The RealBristle category also includes brushes that are useful for blending paint. The Real Blender Flat and Real Blender Round are ideal for applying a small amount of color and then blending it with existing color
- When you have finished exploring the RealBristle brushes, clear your experimental brushstrokes from the Canvas by choosing Select>All and then pressing the Backspace/Delete key
The Mixer with colors for the basic color theme.
Brush strokes painted with four favorite RealBristle brushes (from top), Real Oils Short, Real Flat, Real Flat Opaque, and Real Round.
Building the underpainting
Now that you have your basic colors painted onto the Mixer pad, and you’ve tried out the RealBristle brushes, it’s time to move on to the underpainting stage.
When painting on location with watercolor, acrylics or oil, I usually begin with large brushes and work quickly because natural light changes as you work. For the color study in Painter, I began by using large brushes to block in the first colors and forms in the sky and on the shore.
The Real Oils Short is a great brush for laying in color quickly. Choose the Real Oils Short variant of RealBristle from the Brush Selector Bar. (If you prefer to lay in your base colors with a large round brush, try the Real Round variant of RealBristle.) Begin painting the background areas using broad brushstrokes. Don’t focus on details at this stage. Carefully observe the lighting on the forms in your composition and begin to lay in general shapes for the shadows, mid-tones and highlights. As you work, continue to use the Mixer palette as your paint palette to pick up color and use the two RealBristle brushes to apply the paint to the Canvas. When the underpainting is complete, save a new version of the image.
In my painting, when focusing on the composition and lighting on the forms, I blocked in the clouds and sky using expressive strokes, and resized the brush as I worked. Then I began to paint darker values for the headland and beach, which is mostly in shadow.
Painting the shadows, mid-tones and highlights on the clouds.
Laying the basic shapes for the headland and beach.
5. Sculpting forms and building complex color
When the basic color areas are established, begin to layer strokes to build more dimension on the forms. The direction of the brushstrokes helps to establish the forms, and adds dynamic energy to the image.
You can use the Real Flat Blender variant of the RealBristle category to blend color as you paint. The Real Flat Blender is similar to a conventional flat brush dipped in a small amount of wet oil paint. You can build a smooth, blended transition between colors if you keep your brush pressed to the Canvas, and brush back and forth over an area. If you pick up your brush and touch the Canvas, you will apply a small amount of new color. Try switching between the Real Flat Blender and the Real Oils Short variants of RealBristle to paint and blend colors, rendering the forms using loose, expressive strokes.
To move and blend paint without applying much new paint, use the Real Blender Flat variant of the RealBristle category. The Real Blender Flat brushwork is most visible on the background and on the clouds in my painting. I layered color over color, using a light touch on the stylus, and curved, expressive strokes to sculpt the forms and add an airy look to the clouds.
6. Finessing and adding color accents
Now zoom out to take a good look at your painting and assess the composition. Then zoom in to 100% and take a closer look at the brushwork. Which areas need refinement? Pick a few areas that need accent color and sharper edges. For this color study, keep a fresh, loose look, and don’t worry about rendering fine detail. In my painting, I used a small Real Flat Opaque brush to paint crisper dark green edges along the headland ridge. I then painted a lighter brown to suggest sunlight on the hillside.
To move small areas of paint, reduce the size of the Real Blender Flat brush to about 9–12 pixels. To paint crisper edges on the forms, try using a small Real Short Oils brush (7–12 pixels), or a small Real Flat Opaque, as I did. For accents of brighter opaque color in a few areas, try using a small version of the Real Flat Opaque Oils.
Painting brighter accents on the clouds, headland and shore.
The final version of the color study can be seen at the beginning of this story.
Images and text ©2008 Cher Threinen-Pendarvis.
An award-winning artist and author, Cher Threinen-Pendarvis has always worked with traditional art tools. A pioneer in digital art, Cher has created illustrations using the Macintosh computer for two decades. She has been widely recognized for her mastery of Painter, Adobe® Photoshop® and the Wacom pressure-sensitive tablet, and has used these electronic tools since they were ?rst released. Exercising her passion for Painter’s artist tools, Cher has worked as a consultant and demo-artist for the developers of Painter. Her artwork has been exhibited worldwide and her articles and art have been published in many books and periodicals, and she is a member of the San Diego Museum of Art Artist Guild. She has taught Painter and Photoshop workshops around the world, and is the principal of the consulting ?rm Cher Threinen Design. Cher is the author of The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book, Creative Techniques in Digital Painting and all eight editions of The Painter Wow! Book. The Painter X Wow! Book is the latest edition of this highly-praised volume of techniques and inspiration.
To learn more about Cher, please visit her Web site at www.pendarvis-studios.com.